Fort McMurray – SPORTS – In what is becoming a regular occurrence on PGA TOUR Canada this season, Clarkston, Washington’s Joel Dahmen finds himself atop the leaderboard once again after shooting 4-under par at Fort McMurray Golf Club to take a five stroke lead into the final round of the Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.
The Order of Merit leader got his day started right with birdies on two of his first three holes to break away from the field and look as though he may run away and hide with the Order of Merit lead through three events. Dahmen led by five over Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Tim Madigan and by six over Syracuse, New York’s Daniel McCarthy and defending champion Riley Wheeldon of Comox, British Columbia through three rounds.
“I didn’t make a bogey today, which is huge. It was kind of a goal of mine,” said Dahmen, who has made just two bogeys for the week and is without a blemish on the scorecard in his last 35 holes. “It’s been great.”
After cruising along for much of the day without trouble, the 26-year old faced a difficult sand save on the par-3 15th and a 15-foot par putt following an indifferent bunker shot. The ensuing putt, however, found the cup for par, keeping Dahmen’s momentum going.
“I hadn’t been close to a bogey all day, so I said to my caddie, ‘We have to make this one.’ There was a little fist pump in there. That was huge,” said Dahmen, who shared the 54-hole lead here last year before finishing tied for fourth.
Despite the considerable lead heading into Sunday and the chance to take a vice grip on PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit, the former University of Washington Husky isn’t getting too far ahead of himself before a chance to close the deal in the final round.
“It’s far from over,” said Dahmen. “One swing and you make double or triple and a guy makes birdie and it’s back to square one. If I go out tomorrow and shoot four- or five-under and play well it’s going to be very difficult for somebody to catch me, and that’s going to be the plan.”
Dahmen added that the big lead wouldn’t lead to a change in his strategy at Fort McMurray Golf Club on Sunday.
“I’m not taking too many chances, but it’s more of a conservative strategy with an aggressive swing,” said Dahmen. “My strategy isn’t overly aggressive, but my mind frame has to be.”
FIELD RACING TO PLAY CATCH-UP WITH DAHMEN
With one round to go, the 71 players who made the cut find themselves in a familiar position heading into Sunday – attempting to play catch-up with Joel Dahmen. For those immediately behind Dahmen on the leaderboard, that has meant taking a more aggressive strategy in an effort to make as many birdies as possible.
“Joel’s starting to run away with it,” said Tim Madigan, who sat in solo second at 14-under through three rounds. “I’m just trying to just keep place, play solid and just make birdies when I can.”
Defending champion Riley Wheeldon – who at 13-under par through three rounds had already matched his winning score from 2013 – said Dahmen’s lead has left his chasers with no choice but to play for as many birdies as possible.
“Joel was so far ahead that it pretty much released the reins on the rest of the field,” said Wheeldon, who admitted he has been forced to play differently than last year, when he elected to hit 2-iron off most tees. “You have to go out there and make birdies. The difficulty of this golf course is off the tee, keeping it in play. When you don’t really have pressure, you can go out and swing away and be aggressive.”
Despite Dahmen’s lead, his pursuers haven’t admitted defeat yet, knowing that the tree-lined forest lurking just off the fairways at Fort McMurray Golf Club are able to play the role of the great equalizer.
“On a course like this you can make up shots because all it takes is one bad swing and you’re fighting to make bogey. I’m definitely not hoping that Joel does that, but there is the possibility there,” said Madigan. “I don’t know if there’s even a safe lead out here. It just takes that one swing and it can throw you off.”
WET CONDITIONS FORCE USE OF 17-HOLE COURSE FOR SATURDAY
After persistent rains Friday night into Saturday morning, the rules committee elected to eliminate the use of the water-saturated ninth hole for the third round and put a 17-hole course in play.
“The rules committee determined it would be in the best interest of the competition to eliminate the 9th hole from play and continue with a 17-hole course,” said John Slater, Vice-President, Competitions, PGA TOUR in a statement. “I would like to commend the Fort McMurray Golf Club staff, especially superintendent Jeff Hacior, for the work they have done to get the remainder of the course in good condition leading up to and during this week.”
For online scoring, players were given an automatic par on the 9th hole for Saturday’s third round. The use of the course for Sunday’s final round will be determined at a later time.
Weather: 17 degrees. Winds 12 km/h. Rain giving way to partially cloudy skies.
The start of play was delayed by six hours and nine minutes due to overnight rains making the course unplayable by Saturday morning.
The last time a round on a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event was played with fewer than 18 holes was at the 1989 Northville Long Island Classic on the Champions Tour, with the ninth and 14th holes were flooded by weeklong rains. Butch Baird went on to win.
Had he played 54 official holes, Dahmen’s 19-under par total of 197 would have tied Nick Taylor at the 2013 SIGA Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel for the lowest 54-hole total in the PGA TOUR Canada era.
Adam Cornelson recorded the first ace of PGA TOUR Canada’s second season, holing a 9-iron from 139 yards on the 6th hole.
Syracuse, New York’s Daniel McCarthy followed up a 10-under 62 in round two by shooting 6-under on Saturday to total 16-under for his past two rounds.
The last player to win twice in the same season on PGA TOUR Canada is Eugene Wong in 2012 (TOUR Championship of Canada and The Great Waterway Classic).